BY JOE PAONE IGGLES CORRESPONDENT The fans, flat all day, sullenly filed out of the Linc more or less in silence. Few could muster the legendary anger to, as we often do, bitch and moan LOUDLY about the pitiful state of affairs. Sunday’s atrocity against the Detroit Lions was, in terms of the tenor of the crowd, much like the Eagles’ last game at the Vet, when Ronde Barber ripped our hearts out and stole a Super Bowl appearance we believed was rightfully ours. Much as after that game, you could hear a pin drop on the way to the parking lots and the SEPTA station yesterday.
Disillusionment. Disgust. Resignation. Listlessness. That’s where we find ourselves these days in Birdland. This is not good. The worst thing that could happen to the Eagles franchise is widespread apathy. But we’re getting there. We may already be there. From, say, 1988 to 2005, EVERYONE in town wore Eagles gear, much like everyone wears Phillies gear now. Since the Phillies’ ascent, the Eagles’ toxic mix of disappointing seasons, less-than-stellar drafts, and head-scratching coaching decisions, along with the controversial Mike Vick signing that has clearly turned a lot of people off to the Birds long-term, has inflicted major damage on their longtime standing as Philadelphia’s ultimate passion. It sometimes feels like I’m the only person in East Passyunk wearing an Iggles jersey on Sundees.
Barring an unexpected playoff run, change is almost certainly coming this offseason. The world we’ve known since 1999 – the Pass-Happy, Time’s-Yours, We’ve-Got-to-Put-Players-in-Better-Position World of Andy Reid – finally might come crashing down. This makes me sad. I wanted Andy to hoist that Lombardi Trophy just once. He always seemed SO CLOSE to righting the ship. From all accounts, he’s a good man. He’s brought us a lot of thrills over the years.
Of course, large and vocal segments of the Eagles fanbase gave up on Big Red YEARS ago. I was never among them. The fact that the players love Andy and have always played hard for him is, in my mind, not a fact to be taken lightly in the mercenary, high-turnover world of the NFL. The stability of the Reid regime has been its calling card. But stably mediocre? That’s what the situation has become, and it won’t fly around here much longer.
In 2009, when Donovan McNabb got fat and old and stubborn seemingly overnight and defensive architect Jim Johnson passed away, conditions changed rapidly. Those of us too loyal to see it are starting to feel pretty dumb. Andy doesn’t seem to have the answers to our team’s myriad problems anymore. During his press conferences, he looks increasingly perplexed, frustrated, tired. These are not good traits in a football coach. These are signs that it might FINALLY be time for a change, with no regrets.
It’s not all Andy’s fault. Mike Vick continues to redistribute the pigskin to the opposition like he’s a football socialist. The injury-strafed offensive line is an abomination that can’t pass protect OR run block. The defense, coached (?) by a seemingly overmatched Juan Castillo, can’t hold a lead. The special teams have sucked for a while now. And the Eagles have had some bad luck, too. But so does every team. Fact is, the Birds could easily be 0-6.
What’s concerning is that, as fans, we’ve already given up on this season after Week 6. The Birds usually have one early blowout win that convinces us that there are POSSIBILITIES in January. This year? Not so much. The dead eyes of the fans around me in Section 127 told the story. We’re all fatigued of supporting this flawed team.
Andy and his Eagles have been on the mat before and came roaring back in the second half of the season to make the playoffs. This team, this year, doesn’t have that feeling. This looks like a team mired in mediocrity. All rapidly quieting bark and pitiful bite.
If the Eagles end up going 12-4 or 11-5, I’ll be the first to admit I was way off-base. And believe me, I want to be wrong. But it doesn’t feel that way.
So there’s some sports truthiness for your Monday.
Enjoy the bye week. For once, we can’t lose.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Paone has attended nearly every Eagles game with his dad since 1978 and he has the lasting psychological scars to prove it. He also runs a PR firm, plays rock music, and hunts New Yorkers for sport. BeeElevated@gmail.com